“Thank you so much for auditioning,” Leyla Shokoohe remembers Dave Levy saying to her.

That’s it? Nothing more?

“He said he liked my story,” recalls Shokoohe, the 27-year-old marketing manager for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

He also added, “We’ll let you know.” And he did. A couple of weeks later, Shokoohe learned that she would not be part of trueCRIME, as the True THEATRE presentation she was auditioning for was called.

Shokoohe was understandably disappointed. True Theatre’s four-times-yearly shows are one of the area’s smartest and most tantalizing entertainments. They are also one of the most selective.

It’s entirely likely you’ve never heard about these beguiling shows. Since they take place in the Know Underground—the bar/lobby of Over-the-Rhine’s Know Theatre—there’s only room for 100 or so people. But if you can score a ticket for one of these fascinating shows, you won’t regret it.

Here’s how it works. Essentially, True Theatre presentations are evenings of storytelling—really smart and engaging storytelling. Each presentation features five people, each one sharing a 15-minute story with the audience. The only rules are that the story must be personal, that it be related to the evening’s theme and that it be true, though the organizers make it clear that mostly true is good enough.

Levy and Jeff Groh founded the series back in 2010. “True stories told by real people,” is how they promote the performances. Since that first show, they’ve invited people with interesting stories to riff on all manner of theme, from trueFOOLISHNESS and trueMOM to trueCRIME. Next up is trueBEAUTY, which takes place at 7:30 p.m. on April 13. Tickets are $15.

By day, Levy is an IT professional, while Groh is head of school at the New School Montessori. They both have a bit of the showman in them. But for the most part, they pick people with compelling stories and then stand out of the way.

“Our goal is to give people a raw, authentic storytelling experience,” says Groh. “Kind of like what you might get sitting at a table in a bar, across from a friend who had a great story to share. That would be the ideal, so we’re looking to get as close to that as possible.”

It sounds like a clever conceit. But he’s not kidding.

They meet with participants a couple of times ahead of time for some coaching. Nothing major. They don’t want to fiddle with the authenticity of the stories. But they offer suggestions on how a tale might be dramatized a little better or the dialogue tightened up.

The list of performers often includes a smattering of seasoned stage performers. But just as many of these storytellers are amateurs, people who feel compelled to share some unusual story about their lives.

There have been a couple of mental health professionals and a teacher or two. There was the guy who ran away to join the circus. And the mother who went into excruciating and hilarious detail about giving birth to a premature baby.

Until the night of the performance, though, Levy and Groh don’t reveal the roster of performers. True Theatre has no desire to become a cult of personality. This is about bringing people together to hear stories, no matter who the performers are. It’s an exercise that combines intellect and theater and a palpable sense of community.

And it’s something that Shokoohe still wanted to be part of.

So she cleaned up her presentation a bit. It wasn’t performance ready, by any means, but it was no longer that rambling tale that she found a way to introduce into social gatherings. The closet performer in Shokoohe really, really wanted to get on that stage and make people laugh.

This time it worked. She was part of trueLIES, which took place Jan. 26. It was the same story that Shokoohe auditioned with a year earlier, about an experience she had when she dropped out of college at the age of 19. (She’s 27 now.) In need of quick income, she found herself sucked into a pyramid scheme selling artwork out of the back of her car.

“I was really good for a while there,” says Shokoohe. “I was named rookie sales person of the year and went to Las Vegas for the company conference where I met all the other suckers from across the country.”

Then, as it dawned on her what she was involved with, the story gets funnier by the minute.

“It was a total rush,” says Shokoohe. “I was only up there for 10 or 12 minutes. But three or four minutes in, I realized I’d hit some sort of rhythm. I didn’t really know what I was doing. But it was my story I was telling. I’d told it before, so there wasn’t really any way that I could do anything wrong. It was such a great feeling”

It was a completely heady experience to be part of this oddball group. There was a guy who talked about playing chess with his grandfather. And another who explained in great detail how he beat the mandatory drug test for a new job. And a woman who shared tales of how her parents used to lie to her.

“People were laughing,” says Shokoohe, “but it’s not really stand-up. I don’t really know where the line between comedy and storytelling is. I don’t even know if it matters.”

Neither Levy nor Groh is interested in defining the line, either.

“All we really want are good people telling good stories,” says Levy.